Secret Car Show at the Children's Inn at NIH
A story about the impact of our cars and bikes and just how much good comes out of the automotive culture.
Its my contention that the general public doesn't quite understand all of the philanthropic endeavors that our automotive culture supports. Millions of dollars are raised and donated every year from car, bike, truck, ect shows. Our vehicles also spark the imagination of the next generation of enthusiasts. Walking around a car show you'll see Moms, dads, grandparents, uncles and aunts share stories of that old sedan they used to have or Grandpop's ole' tractor or their dad's Pontiac that they utilized the back seat for nefarious purposes. Memories are shared and family stories passed on from one generation to the next. I found a situation where I wanted to create a car show for a group of young kids that needed some mental relief from the ailments that they were fighting. At the same time I was introducing a potential group of donors to an institution that is solely supported by the public's generosity.
Grandpa spending time with one of the grandkids at the Gladhill's Tractor Pull in Frederick Maryland.
I was introduced to the concept of the Children’s Inn at NIH by Andrew and Bruce Lee of DrivenToCure.org. They spoke often of how the kids reacted to Andrew bringing the DTC GTR to the Inn. That installed in my mind a desire to host a car show at the Inn back in 2015. I spoke to Bruce about it a number of times but never followed thru.
Every car guy has their dream build. This Nissan GTR is Andrew's dream build. Here is the story behind the famous Driven To Cure GTR and what it's purpose is...
I was photographing Andrew Lee recieving recognition for raising and donating to NIH $400,000 back in November of 2017. All that money was raised from the automotive community thru small donations and the sales of merchandise. Every single penny raised was donated to FNIH for research of rare cancers. The event took place at the Children's Inn at NIH. The award was presented by the Comptroller of the state of Maryland. During the proceedings, as Andrew was being lauded for his incredible journey fighting HLRCC, I just happened to look outside. I noticed a young fella in a serious walker of some sort and his dad gazing at the DTC GTR. They spent a good 20 minutes checking out its every detail. After I processed the below image, I set out to communicate with Jennie Lucca (CEO of the Children’s Inn) about my car show idea. From that conversation came my Secret Car Show concept. I called it secret because it was solely for the benefit of the residents of the Inn on the closed campus of NIH in Bethesda Maryland.
A Children's Inn at NIH resident and his father gazing at the DrivenToCure GTR.
Jennie agreed on the premise and then I went about gathering my resources.
I have a car buddy (he owns and incredible Jaguar E Type running on a set of D Type rims) that is the general council for the VW Group. Thru him I was introduced to the COO of Lamborghini America, Alessandro Farmeschi. He in turn immediately loved the idea and started the wheels turning to have at least one special Lamborghini participate. Lamborghini also donated some great branded swag for the residents. Alessandro carved out some time from his busy travel schedule to attend. Afterwards he reflected on how meaningful this was. As you'll see from the pictures, how can you not be affected by the joy exhibited by these kids.
Here you see the utter joy in Dhrub Jain of Kampala Uganda as he gazing in wonder at the interior of the Lamborghini Huracan Performante. The Children's Inn at NIH serves kids and their families from all over the world, at no cost.
Originally I wanted to bring in about 15 cars. But astutely, Aisha Dubois, Assistant Director of Program Operations at the Children's Inn, noted that this could be overload for the residents. She suggested 5, I negotiated up to 8. We ended up with 5 (plus the two motorcycles), which was a very comfortable number for the kids. I had an Enzo and the Ferris Bueller Ferrari lined up but they were late game cancelations.
The HVA had the Ferris Bueller Ferrari on display on the Mall back in April. Unfortunately the owner had to cancel his participation.
From there I reached out to a select group of my friends. I contacted Bill Gibson because he had a car that would make any young person take a second look. He built an Adam West Batmobile in his garage. He built it to share with children and adults alike. He was a natural fit for our Secret Little Car Show. Bill donated some Batman masks for the kids to enjoy.
Bill Gibson is a noted machinist and created this Batmobile in his garage, using a 1977 Lincoln Continental chassis for the underpinnings.
All attendees and visitors have to go thru a stringent security check which includes intense scrutiny of your vehicle. Bill emailed me just before the show asking about his flares that he can launch from the 3 ejector tubes just behind the cockpit. I forwarded the question and we determined that it probably was a good idea to leave those at home.
Security thought it was a good idea for Bill to leave his flares at home.
Then I reached out to my very good friend, Rick Parker. He is a Lincoln guy and one of the magnificent machines in his small collection is that of a 1936 Lincoln K. I wanted the residents to get a real mix of cars to look at.
I've been lucky to spend a good deal of seat time in this magnificent 1936 Lincoln K which is motivated by a flathead V12.
Then my friend Bob Rizzoli came on board with his almost comically loud 1937 Fiat Topolino. Bob also became enamored with the mission of the Inn and ended up donating $10,000 to the cause. On game day the Fiat developed an oil pressure issue. Bob tried wrenching on it but ended up coming to the show in a conventional vehicle.
This is the second iteration of a 37 street legal Fiat Topolino street drag machine that Bob Rizolli has built. It is truly a sick, sick machine.
That brings Walt Ziffer into the picture. I met Walt and his daughter at the recent open house at McLaren Sterling. He was there with his very special McLaren MP4-12c Project Alfa. Its one of six in the world. He also happens to live next door to Holly Parker, one of the founders of the Inn. He had heard her mention the Inn but never knew of her connection and its mission. Cathy Morales gave he and his daughter a nice tour of the Inn. Walt also brought about 20 little McLaren cars as give aways for the kids.
Walt Ziffer and Dhruv who is holding one of the McLaren die cast cars that he donated.
It as always the plan to have Andrew Lee bring the GTR to our show. He was all excited. But as is always possible when one is on trial meds for a serious illness, Andrew just wasn’t feeling well enough to attend. His dad, Bruce called me and asked about bringing the GTR. The problem is, he doesn’t really know how to drive it, yet. The DTC GTR has over 700 hp and a sophisticated air suspension. So I told him to bring the new Caddy and bring some DTC swag as well. He did and spent so much time taking to each and every resident and their families. He is such an inspirational figure. But in reality, he is really driven by his son’s brave fight against HLRCC. To date, DTC has raised $500,000 with every penny being donated to FNIH to fight rare cancers.
Bruce Lee of DrivenToCure.org spent a great deal of time with each and every resident and families. DrivenToCure.org has raised and donated every penny of the $500,000 they've raised for rare cancer research at NIH.
A late arrival to the invite list (but first on the premises) was Peter Calles. He is a civil engineer by trade but absolute motorcycle collector nut job. He has about 40 motorcycles with over 25 inside his house. Yes, ladies, he is single.
Peter Calles has shown bikes from the Amelia Island Concours to Pebble beach. But this was one of the most meaningful events he has had the honor of attending.
So as you can see by the attached photos below, the show hit its mark by delivering smiles to the residents and their families, the Inn Staff and the owners as well. As Alessandro said as he was leaving, that his attendance during a very busy travel schedule, was a welcomed reminder to what is really important in this life. We all need to stop for a moment, relish that time, and see what we can do to try and make this a better place.
Dhruv Jain is Snapchatting with his friends, sharing the experience with some folks back in Uganda.
She probably has never seen the original Batman series, but, you could see she enjoyed sitting in the Batmobile.
You can't see her smile but the twinkle in her eyes tell the story. Bruce Lee sat everyone who was able in his 650 hp Cadillac and let them start it up, much to their delight.
Ahmad Ayyash, 5, of Hebron, Palestinian territories, shared the moment with his family via Facetime.
Three generations stand in front of the amazing one of six in the world McLaren MC4-12 Project Alfa.
The parents had just as much fun as did the residents.
To a person, everyone at the Inn was super excited about the success of the show. It was a welcomed respite for the residents and very well received. I think the owners got just as much out of the as did everyone else. To see the unadulterated joy of the kids as they had the opportunity to sit in these special machines was just heart warming.
I don't think we in the automotive community get enough credit for all the philanthropic endeavors. Millions are raised every year via our events. But we can always do more. Think about places in your community that could use some diversion. Open the doors of your special vehicle and let the next generation experience your vehicle. We need to take off those "Please look but don't touch" signs. (Now, one has to be reasonable with this as well. Parents need to make sure ice cream drenched hands don't smear on your interior or their baby wagon SUV type devices don't bang into your door, but you know what I mean.) Your car or bike might be the match that lights the imagination of the next inheritor of our shared automotive/bike/truck/tractor/train/plane passion. Think globally, act locally.
Take a moment and visit DrivenToCure.org and read about Andrew Lee's fight against HLRCC. He and his family are an inspiration to many and an example of how access to experimental drugs is so important. You can make a difference, its all about getting in the game.
If you like, also take a peek at the Children's Inn at NIH website. They provide an oasis for kids seeking treatment at NIH. These kids are battling serious issues and the Inn provides a sanctuary where they can find solace and refreshment, all for free. Meaning that the Inn exists solely by donations from the public. You can help make a difference for this special group. www.childrensinn.org
My next step is getting my digital photography classes started at the Children's Inn at NIH. I’m waiting on a start date. The idea is to get the residents out of their rooms, exercising and looking at the world in a different light. I’m excited to get started.
So that’s the story about my secret little car show at the Inn. I hope that we get a chance to do it again soon.
Hopefully I'll have this enzo at my next show.